What Does it Mean to Disobey a Police Officer in California?

The law has given police and other law enforcement officers authority to order and direct people. They do this in their duty to protect, serve, and maintain a safe environment for all people. When a police officer approaches you or asks you to pull over for a routine check-up or due to a traffic violation, they expect you to follow their orders. These orders are usually necessary to maintain order during an emergency and keep the public safe. You can face criminal charges when you fail or refuse to obey law enforcement officers' orders, signals, or directions. Facing charges for disobeying a law enforcement officer is a misdemeanor offense and could lead to six months imprisonment in county jail.

Legal Requirement for Disobeying a Police Officer

In California, it is a crime under VC 2800 when you refuse or fail to comply with an order, direction, or signal issued by a law enforcement officer. You will have violated this code when you willfully and intentionally fail to comply with an order issued by a peace officer.

The prosecution will charge you for violating VC 2800 when you disobey the law enforcement officer provided that:

  • The officer was in their uniform.
  • The officer had displayed their badge in a conspicuous place where you could easily see and identify it.
  • The officer issues the order in accordance or while performing their duties.

For instance, if you fail to follow a traffic police's direction, pullover, or stop when they ask you to, you can then face misdemeanor charges for violating VC 2800, among other traffic violations the officer had arrested you for. You should note that Vehicle Code 2800 makes it a crime to operate a vehicle with an"out-of-service" order. This order means that the car is unsafe to drive.

Understanding What It Entails To Disobey A Police Officer in Los Angeles

Disobeying a police officer in California is an offense under Vehicle Code 2800. You need to know and understand that breaking or failing to comply with a police officer is not a law that will punish you if you fail to answer questions about your innocence or guilt. This law does not force you to allow a police officer to search your car or home without a valid warrant. Also, it is not a law that denies you the right to contact your lawyer if the police pull you over and go through your license as you sit inside your car. When it comes to your rights, you can retain them whether you are taking a walk, driving your car, or relaxing at home.

The aim of disobeying a law enforcement officer or a police officer's law is to try and make their job safer and more accessible. This can be as they conduct routine traffic checks to manage crowds in emergencies. This law also helps remind people that they have agreed to honor and obey essential police and other law enforcement officers' requests by residing or driving in California.

You will realize that most of these basic requests do not interfere with your rights. If you read the law, you will realize that most prohibited actions benefit your safety.

Ways In Which You Can Violate California VC 2800 - Disobey A Police Officer

Failing to Give Your Details

Violation of VC 2800 occurs while you are driving. You can face charges for disobeying a police officer if you are a passenger in a vehicle that the police have stopped. The law does not require you to provide the police with your identification documents or any other information as a passenger. However, if you are the driver and fail or refuse to give the police your name, address, name, address of the vehicle's owner, and date of birth when they request, you can face charges for violating California VC 2800.

In California, if you are a driver and you are driving the car or are away from your home, the law requires you to provide the police officer with your details when they pull you over or stop you. You should note that you are not revealing much about yourself by doing this, as the officer can easily access this information if they call DMV or dispatch to run a background check on you. This information is readily available from your vehicle's registration or driving license.

The only requirement the law has is that you provide identification. The law does not require you to admit whether you knew your license was suspended or confess to committing any offense. Additionally, the law does not require you to disclose where you are going or coming from. Suppose the conversation with the traffic officer seems to go beyond essential identification requirements. In that case, you can exercise your constitutional right and remain silent without worrying that you have disobeyed a police officer.

Providing False Information

It is an offense to provide false information like your name, address, date of birth, the name of the car's owner, or any information that the law enforcement officer may require. The purpose of providing this information is to help the officer identify the owner or the person responsible for the motor vehicle. Even when you are not driving the car, you are not allowed to lie to law enforcement officers or give them false information to hide the identities of the car's owner. This information will make their job harder, but they will still obtain the car's registration details from the DMV or the dispatch.

Some laws prohibit you from giving false information to the police, like Obstruction of Justice and False Report. You can choose to remain silent instead of providing incorrect information, as it is your right to do so, and you do not have a right to lie to law enforcement officers. Remaining silent will work in your favor, while lying to a police officer could spell legal problems for you. If you are in a situation where you do not want to provide the police with any information, you can choose to remain silent and contact your criminal defense attorney for advice.

Purposely Failing To Stop When a Police Officer Signals You To Stop

You will have disobeyed a police officer when you intentionally fail to stop, pull over, or follow their directive when the officer signals you. The law requires the officers to be in uniform or display their badges in a conspicuous place while on active duty. At other times, the police officer can stop you by signaling using visual or audible warning signs. Additionally, you will violate the law when you intentionally try to avoid a police officer by increasing your car's speed or abandoning the vehicle if the police are pursuing you.

You realize that under normal circumstances, you will stop if a police officer asks you to stop while at the malls or taking a walk down the street. The same rule applies even when driving a car; the law does not change because you are not on foot. Under the law, you are not required to run away when the officer orders you to stop but to comply with the order. If the law enforcement officer stops and you keep walking, try to run away, or refuse to stop, you could end up resisting arrest or detention charges instead of disobeying a police officer's orders. When the police officers do not allow you to accelerate your car to high speed or duck into alleys by chasing you, they are not violating your constitutional rights but simply doing their job.

Example: Mike is driving his pregnant wife to the hospital. He is speeding as his wife is in labor, and she seems to have complications. When the traffic police signal him to stop, he ignores them and continues to drive at high speed to the hospital. The police pursue him until they reach the hospital, where they realize his reason for speeding. Under these circumstances, Mike can not be convicted under VC 2800 even if he purposely refused to comply with a police officer's order to stop since he was involved in a critical situation where his wife's life was in danger.

Refusing to Produce Your License

If you refuse to produce your driving license or your car's registration documents when the police officer requests them could amount to a violation of the law. The law requires you to provide these documents for identification purposes only. However, this will only apply when you are the car's driver, not the passenger. Sometimes the police may ask you for your identification document even if you are the vehicle's passenger; under the law, you can refuse or fail to provide these documents, and you will not violate disobeying a police officer.

Neglecting or Refusing To Produce Your License When Law Enforcement Agencies Requests Them

Refusing or neglecting to surrender your license, number plate, or registration certificate to authorized DMV employees or representatives after revocation or suspension is another way of disobeying a law enforcement officer. Additionally, if you fail to give your license when law enforcement officers request them, these law enforcement officers may include and are not limited to:

  • Justice or court employees,
  • Authorized representatives or employees of the department
  • Authorized representatives of the director of licenses.

You should know that the same way the California DMV gives you your license, it is the same way it can take it away. All you should remember is to be sure that whoever asks you to surrender your license has the authority to do so. Also, when a government agent, court, or authority asks you to submit your license, it is prudent to contact your lawyer immediately.

Refusing To Submit to Police Inspection

You will have disobeyed and violated the law if you fail to submit to a police inspection when they pull you over. The law states that refusing to comply with a police officer’s orders, direction, or signals is unlawful.  Under California VC 2800, when you fail to submit to lawful inspection by a traffic officer, you can be charged with a violation of this statute.

Refusing to Comply With  Traffic Officer's Directions

If you refuse or fail to follow a traffic officer's directions, you will violate California VC 2800. Sometimes the traffic police may direct vehicles along the highway or interstate if there is an issue or accident. Complying with the direction will help ease traffic along these roads and ensure the officers' work becomes more manageable and safer. When you purposely refuse to follow their guidance, you endanger other road users.

Example: If you are in a hurry to get home and watch your favorite show after a hard day at work. Unfortunately, you find that the interstate you usually use is shut down. The officers at the site direct you to take the closest exit, but since you have never used that exit, you decide to ignore their directive. When you ignore the officer's directive and proceed to drive to your usual exit, you will have violated VC 2800.

Refusing to Comply With An “Out-Of-Service order”

In California, it is unlawful to refuse or fail to obey a lawful “out-of-service order.” This order could be issued by a law enforcement officer or by authorized employees of DMV. An “out-of-service” charge is a declaration made by an authorized officer indicating that your car is unsafe to drive according to the law.

Example: if you are operating a semi-truck, and a traffic officer declares your rig to be out-of-service by issuing a lawful order. If you do not take the police officer seriously, the next day, they stop you and realize that you did not fix the issues in your rig. The officer can charge you with violating a lawful “out-of-service” order.

Failing to Comply With a Police Officer’s Orders While You Are Transporting Hazardous Substances in A Commercial Motor Vehicle Without Displaying A Placard

Under section 27903, California makes it unlawful to transport hazardous substances in a commercial motor vehicle without displaying a placard. If you do so and fail to comply with a law enforcement officer’s order, signal, or directions, you will violate VC 2800, disobeying a police officer.

Example: Derrick is hauling a vehicle carrying corrosive substances. A police officer stops him since he is speeding. Upon inspection, the officer notes several problems with the car and gives him an out-of-service order. Derrick decides to take his cargo to its destination and tend to the vehicle later. He could face charges for disobeying a police officer under California VC 2800.

Legal Defenses Against Disobeying a Police Officer Charges

Facing criminal charges for disobeying a police officer can be a traumatizing experience. Still, you do not have to worry as your criminal defense attorney can develop a defense strategy to ensure that the court drops or dismisses your charges. Your defense team can use some of the following defenses:

You Did Not Act Willfully

To face disobeying a police officer's charges, you will have done the action willingly. This means you will have acted willfully or intentionally to be guilty of this offense. Your attorney can show the court that your actions were not intentional or willful. Your attorney can show the court that you did not willfully disobey as you did not understand the directions or failed to hear when the police gave their orders.

The Law Enforcement Officer Was Not Performing Their Duties

To be guilty of disobeying a police officer, the officer must be in uniform or have their badge displayed in a conspicuous place while performing their duties. Therefore, your defense attorney can argue that the police officer was not in uniform and was off duty when they issued the order.

It Was Out Of Necessity

Under this defense, you can argue that you disobeyed the order out of necessity. You will need to show the court that you had a good reason to commit this crime like it was in a life or death situation.


Under California VC 2800, disobeying a police officer is a misdemeanor offense. Upon a conviction, you will face county jail imprisonment that does not exceed six months, pay $1,000 in fines, or a judge can impose probation instead of incarceration.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Facing disobeying a police officer is a criminal offense that could lead to your imprisonment. California's criminal system gears toward locking people up. Your life can change drastically if the court convicts you for disobeying a police officer. A criminal record will come up when your future employers perform a background check on you, which can negatively affect your chances of landing your dream job. Apart from employment, a criminal record will affect how some institutions view you, like housing agencies, loans, or even education. Therefore, it is vital to hire an experienced defense attorney to defend you and ensure your charges do not affect you negatively.

Our attorneys at The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney are experts in criminal law and understand California laws. We know how to build a successful defense that will lead to the best outcome in your case. Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions at 310-564-2605 and schedule your first consultation.

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